Dallas Cowboys: 2013 Cowboys free agents

Cowboys free agents: Brian Schaefering

February, 7, 2013
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Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsBrian Schaefering didn't have a huge impact, but a team can never have enough defensive tackles.

Brian Schaefering


Position: Defensive tackle

Type: Restricted

Summary: A late-season addition, Schaefering picked up the techniques well and immersed himself into the Cowboys locker room pretty quickly. He had a minimal impact on the team.

Why keep him: You can never have enough defensive tackles, especially when you're moving to a 4-3 scheme that needs defenders to push the pocket. The uncertain futures of Jay Ratliff and Josh Brent due to their arrests means the Cowboys are thin at this position, so Schaefering gets to stay.

Why let him go: The Cowboys didn't seen enough of him and there's nothing wrong with looking at other players, specifically draft picks with more upside.

Best guess: He stays with the team. It can't hurt to have him around getting to know the scheme and maybe becoming a reliable backup.

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Cowboys free agents: Anthony Spencer

February, 6, 2013
2/06/13
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AP Photo/Tony GutierrezAnthony Spencer could end up costing too much for the Cowboys to keep.

Anthony Spencer


Position: Outside linebacker

Type: Unrestricted

Summary: Spencer had his best year as a pro in 2012. He established career highs in sacks (11) and total tackles (55) and increased his stock not only around Valley Ranch, but across the NFL. Spencer was franchised last season and the Cowboys have the option of doing that again. The tag would cost the team $10.8 million. Is Spencer worth it? He was the Cowboys second-best pass rusher next to DeMarcus Ware, and at times might have been the best pass rusher due to Ware's injuries.

Why keep him: He will move to defensive end, a position he hasn't played full-time since college, but it's not a big deal because the Cowboys used a four-man front a good percentage of the time. He is the team's second-best pass rusher, and new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin wants pass rushers along his defensive line.

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Why let him go: The money. Cowboys should spend their free agent money elsewhere, perhaps at defensive tackle. They also need to extend the contract of quarterback Tony Romo.

Best guess: Spencer becomes too rich for the Cowboys. He's going to command roughly $8-10 million on the free agent market.

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Cowboys free agents: Brady Poppinga

February, 6, 2013
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Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesBrady Poppinga was signed after Bruce Carter was injured, but he doesn't figure into the Cowboys' future plans.

Brady Poppinga


Position: Linebacker

Type: Unrestricted

Summary: Poppinga was signed after the Cowboys lost Bruce Carter for the season to a broken elbow. He worked out for the Cowboys earlier in the season but the team chose to sign Gary Guyton, who lasted last than week. Poppinga played in four games with one start and had four tackles. He also had four tackles on special teams. He played mostly inside linebacker but also worked on the outside when the Cowboys went with a hybrid 4-3 look.

Why keep him: He has some position flexibility and can play special teams, and he would command only a one-year deal at or near the minimum. While a tad eccentric, he brings energy to the practice field.

Why let him go: With a 4-3 scheme, the Cowboys need to get faster at linebacker. Poppinga turns 34 in September.

Best guess: He was a stop-gap player because of injury in 2012 and doesn't figure in the future plans.

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Cowboys free agents: Ernie Sims

February, 5, 2013
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Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsThe Cowboys called on Ernie Sims after losing Sean Lee for the season.

Ernie Sims


Position: Linebacker

Type: Unrestricted

Summary: When the Cowboys lost Sean Lee for the season to a toe injury, they called on Sims even though he did not have any experience in the 3-4. In 10 games (six starts), he was credited with 42 tackles, a sack, two pressures and three pass deflections. He battled through a concussion that limited him late in the season, but he shored up a spot that was depleted as the season went on.

Why keep him: The move to the 4-3 might actually help Sims' chances to return. While Lee will be the starter at middle linebacker, Sims could be a viable backup option. He does not turn 29 until Dec. 23.

Why let him go: As well as he played with no preparation time, it must be pointed out that he was out of football for a reason last October. He has ability, but he's not part of a future foundation.

Best guess: He will test the market to see if his 10-game audition in 2012 did enough to warrant interest from other teams. Sims could be part of a fall-back plan at a low cost for the Cowboys.

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Cowboys free agents: Charlie Peprah

February, 5, 2013
2/05/13
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Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesCharlie Peprah can play both safety positions and proved to be a good tackler who is dependable in coverage.

Charlie Peprah


Position: Safety

Type: Unrestricted

Summary: Peprah, who was signed Oct. 24, was still recovering from a knee injury and was inactive for the first two games after joining the club. But he started Nov. 11 at Philadelphia and had two tackles and broke up one pass. He played well at times, including getting an interception against Washington on Nov. 22, but he missed three more games after that with a foot injury.

Why keep him: Peprah can play both safety positions, but he's better suited at strong safety. He's a good tackler and is dependable in pass coverage.

Why let him go: Eric Frampton and Matt Johnson might be valued more than Peprah in the eyes of the coaching staff. While Peprah is a physical presence, his health raises some concerns about his short-term future.

Best guess: Peprah might thrive under the new 4-3 scheme as a physical safety against the run. Bring him back.

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Cowboys free agents: John Phillips

February, 4, 2013
2/04/13
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Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesJohn Phillips finished with eight catches for 55 yards and one touchdown and will be coming off shoulder surgery.

John Phillips


Position: Tight end

Type: Unrestricted

Summary: The backup tight end finished with eight catches for 55 yards and one touchdown. It was the second-fewest receptions in Phillips' four-year career. It was clear the Cowboys missed a good blocking tight end after they let Martellus Bennett go in free agency. Phillips was inconsistent in this area. It seems he has never been the same player after tearing his ACL in 2010. Phillips underwent shoulder surgery recently and he should be in good shape for training camp.

Why keep him: Phillips is a smart player who runs good routes but gets lost behind the excellent play of Jason Witten. Phillips can make some plays when called upon.

Why let him go: James Hanna emerged as a good player and finished with more receiving yards (86 to 55) than Phillips.

Best guess: Cowboys let him test the market and move Hanna into the No. 2 role behind Witten.

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Cowboys free agents: Brian Moorman

February, 4, 2013
2/04/13
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Wesley Hitt/Getty ImagesBrian Moorman did a solid job filling in the Chris Jones but isn't likely to be back.

Brian Moorman


Position: Punter

Type: Unrestricted

Summary: The Cowboys signed Moorman as an emergency fill-in after Chris Jones suffered a knee injury when a punt was nearly blocked. Moorman ended up staying for 12 games after Jones was unable to continue with a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Moorman did an admirable job, averaging 44.6 yards per punt with a 38.9-yard net, but he slumped down the stretch.

Why keep him: Jones will be the punter for this team, barring something unforeseen, so perhaps Moorman comes back as insurance in training camp. That job, however, usually goes to a younger punter.

Why let him go: Jones will be back. Moorman will cost more than Jones, and the struggles toward the end are concerning. Did we mention that Jones, who has a powerful leg, will be back?

Best guess: The Cowboys will not make an attempt to re-sign Moorman, who filled in nicely in 2012.

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Cowboys free agents: Kevin Ogletree

February, 3, 2013
2/03/13
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AP Photo/Julio CortezKevin Ogletree had a career game in the opener but didn't do much after that.

Kevin Ogletree


Position: Wide receiver

Type: Unrestricted

Summary: Ogletree posted career highs in catches (32), yards (436) and touchdowns (four), but he did himself no favors with some untimely misplays and was never able to come close to replicating his Week 1 performance vs. the New York Giants where he had eight catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns. While his final numbers are in line with what a No. 3 receiver in this offense should put up, Ogletree became an easy target for what didn't happen on offense in 2012.

Why keep him: The Cowboys have invested four years in him and finally saw some fruit in their patience. He is talented, if enigmatic, and can play all three wide receiver roles.

Why let him go: The development of Dwayne Harris as the year went on makes Ogletree expendable. He does not contribute to special teams, so his usefulness is limited to a specific role.

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Best guess: Ogletree has a fan in Jason Garrett, but it's just time to move on for the betterment of both parties. He can get a fresh start as a reserve receiver somewhere else and the Cowboys can see what they have in their youngsters or look to the draft for a receiver, as well.

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Cowboys free agents: L.P. Ladouceur

February, 1, 2013
2/01/13
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AP Photo/Matt StrasenL.P. Ladouceur didn't have a bad snap all season and should be back in the mix.

L.P. Ladouceur


Position: Deep snapper

Type: Unrestricted

Summary: Ladouceur didn't have a bad snap the entire season and dealt with two different holders, Chris Jones and Brian Moorman. The Cowboys brought in deep snapper Charley Hughlett in training camp with the hopes of challenging Ladouceur for his spot on the roster, but it didn't happen.

Why keep him: He's a productive veteran player who said he's not asking for big money. Ladouceur understands there are numerous deep snappers who became unrestricted free agents this spring, but he feels that the Cowboys should keep the status quo because of his consistency.

Why let him go: The Cowboys could go younger at this position, and they did sign Hughlett to a futures contract with the goal of possibly replacing Ladouceur.

Best guess: He remains with the team. While the Cowboys have salary-cap issues -- they are $26 million over -- once the franchise gets under the cap, they should be able to bring Ladouceur back.

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Cowboys free agents: Danny McCray

January, 31, 2013
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AP Photo/Tom HauckDanny McCray started 10 games and finished second on the team in tackles.

Danny McCray


Position: Safety

Type: Restricted

Summary: The Cowboys' special teams ace started 10 games because of the season-ending injury to Barry Church. McCray finished second on the team in total tackles (71) and solo tackles (50). He also had one interception and two pass breakups. McCray played through nagging injuries in the latter half of the season.

Why keep him: McCray is a smart player who impressed coaches with his tackling and improved his ability to cover tight ends and speedy receivers on deep routes. When Church returns from a torn Achilles, expect McCray to compete for a backup role at safety and turn into a solid special teams player the Cowboys value.

Why let him go: He struggled at times with open-field tackling and seemed to be a liability at times in pass coverage. Maybe Matt Johnson, who missed the entire season with hamstring injuries, could replace McCray in the lineup in 2013. Eric Frampton, another free agent, is another option.

Best guess: McCray will be back in 2013. There is some concern about the return of Church and Johnson from health issues. If both players are slow to recover from their injuries, then McCray becomes an important part of the team's future.

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Cowboys free agents: Eric Frampton

January, 31, 2013
1/31/13
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Greg Bartram/USA TODAY SportsEric Frampton can play both safety spots.

Eric Frampton


Position: Safety

Type: Unrestricted

Summary: Frampton was the first of several veteran players signed off the market during the season because to injuries. Frampton was able to play some corner but was mainly a safety. He picked up the defensive scheme pretty quickly and earned significant snaps on defense. When injuries hampered the secondary, particularly to safety Danny McCray, Frampton was one of the first safeties used. He had 30 tackles on the season, 11 coming as a starter.

Why keep him: Frampton is a smart player who is able to utilize his athletic gifts at both free and strong safety.

Why let him go: The Cowboys have a young safety, Matt Johnson, who didn't play last season due to injury. If Johnson is healthy, it's better to give him snaps with the second team defense over Frampton.

Best guess: The Cowboys should bring him back because he can play both safety spots, but he's probably more comfortable as a free safety.

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Cowboys free agents: Felix Jones

January, 30, 2013
1/30/13
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Tim Heitman/US PresswireFelix Jones never quite panned out after being drafted as a first-rounder.

Felix Jones


Position: Running back

Type: Unrestricted

Summary: For only the second time in his five seasons, Jones was able to play a full season. But he was banged up throughout the season. Jones started seven times after DeMarco Murray suffered a sprained foot, but he never had more than 100 yards rushing in a game. He finished the year with 402 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 111 carries. He also caught 25 passes for 262 yards and caught two touchdowns. With a chance to change perceptions in a contract year, Jones came up short.

Why keep him: The Cowboys need a backup running back behind Murray and one with the ability to start, considering Murray's health issues. Jones would be cost efficient, as well. He knows the offense and has familiarity with the coaches.

Why let him go: Jones is a reminder of just how wrong the Cowboys were in 2008 when they drafted him in the first round over backs such as Ray Rice and Matt Forte. He has a difficult time staying healthy and he is just not an instinctive runner.

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Best guess: It's time to move on. Jones played hard and played hurt, but he just did not play well enough. Teams should be able to find running backs anywhere, and there is no need to bring back a first-rounder that failed to live up to expectations.

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Cowboys free agents: Derrick Dockery

January, 30, 2013
1/30/13
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Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsDerrick Dockery proved to be a reliable backup after signing because of injuries to the offensive line.

Derrick Dockery


Position: Guard

Type: Unrestricted

Summary: Dockery was signed in training camp after injuries to the interior offensive line left the Cowboys thin. Dockery started one game and was a reliable veteran backup. When Mackenzy Bernadeau struggled, offensive line coach Bill Callahan gave Dockery first-team reps in practice. Bernadeau would improve and he maintained his starting role, but having Dockery around was good insurance for the Cowboys. He practiced through a bursa sac above his knee in the last two months of the season.

Why keep him: Nothing wrong with keeping veteran linemen around in case younger linemen don't develop. Dockery is one of those trusted veterans who can adapt to both guard spots and can mentor young linemen.

Why let him go: It's probably time to let the 32-year old test the free agent market again. The Cowboys have young interior linemen in Kevin Kowalski, Phil Costa, David Arkin and Ronald Leary, who will be given a chance to make the 53-man roster.

Best guess: Dockery is good for the short term and was needed in 2012 when injuries and ineffective play hampered the offensive line. He most likely will hit the free agent market again, so it's time for the Cowboys to let him go and rely on younger linemen.

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Cowboys free agents: Mike Jenkins

January, 29, 2013
1/29/13
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Jeff Fishbein/Icon SMIMike Jenkins wants a starting job, but he won't get it with the Cowboys.

Mike Jenkins


Position: Cornerback

Type: Unrestricted

Summary: Jenkins' contract year could not have gone worse. He had reconstructive surgery on his right shoulder after the 2011 season, did almost all of his rehab away from the Cowboys, missed the entire offseason program, saw the Cowboys sign Brandon Carr to a $50 million free-agent deal and draft Morris Claiborne with the sixth overall pick in the draft. Jenkins was not healthy enough to play in the opener, missed three games during the year and started only two. After Orlando Scandrick was lost for the year with a broken hand, Jenkins moved into the slot for the first time in his career. He had only 14 tackles and three pass breakups and did not have an interception.

Why keep him: He has ability and can be a top-shelf cornerback when healthy, and teams can never have enough cornerbacks. After the season he had, he could be a cheap buy.

Why let him go: This isn't about the Cowboys letting him go. This is about Jenkins wanting to go, especially after the drafting of Claiborne. He wants an opportunity to start, which he won't get here.

Best guess: Jenkins will play elsewhere in 2013, but he will not land the type of deal he expects. He might have to go with a one-year deal with the chance to cash in the following season. He turns 28 in March, so he might have a difficult time ever cashing in.

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Cowboys free agents: Kenyon Coleman

January, 29, 2013
1/29/13
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AP Photo/Paul AbellThe move to a 4-3 defense could spell the end of Kenyon Coleman's days in Dallas.

Kenyon Coleman


Position: Defensive end

Type: Unrestricted

Summary: Coleman played in only seven games in 2012 because of injuries. He suffered a torn triceps on Nov. 11 at Philadelphia that required season-ending surgery. He finished with 22 tackles, two quarterback pressures and one forced fumble. Before getting hurt, he was playing his best football, and the run defense suffered in his absence.

Why keep him: He fits in with Jason Garrett's desire to have the "right kind of guy" in the locker room. He is selfless and will do what the coaches ask of him.

Why let him go: The move to the 4-3 hurts Coleman's chances of returning, even on a one-year deal at the veteran minimum. He is a 3-4 defensive end with the ability to hold up blockers, but he is not a penetrating type of lineman.

Best guess: The Cowboys need to upgrade their defensive line with their move to the 4-3 and need to get younger and more athletic up front. Coleman could return as a fall-back option, but the chances of that happening should be slim.

Read the rest of the series here.

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